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The Gift of the Dying: The Tragedy of AIDS and the Welfare of Future African Generations


  • Alwyn Young


This paper simulates the impact of the AIDS epidemic on future living standards in South Africa. I emphasize two competing effects. On the one hand, the epidemic is likely to have a detrimental impact on the human capital accumulation of orphaned children. On the other hand, widespread community infection lowers fertility, both directly, through a reduction in the willingness to engage in unprotected sexual activity, and indirectly, by increasing the scarcity of labor and the value of a woman's time. I find that even with the most pessimistic assumptions concerning reductions in educational attainment, the fertility effect dominates. The AIDS epidemic, on net, enhances the future per capita consumption possibilities of the South African economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Alwyn Young, 2005. "The Gift of the Dying: The Tragedy of AIDS and the Welfare of Future African Generations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(2), pages 423-466.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:120:y:2005:i:2:p:423-466.

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kominski, Gerald F. & Long, Stephen H., 1997. "Medicare's disproportionate share adjustment and the cost of low-income patients," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 177-190, April.
    2. Hope Corman & Theodore Joyce & Michael Grossman, 1987. "A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of Strategies to Reduce Infant Mortality," NBER Working Papers 2346, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Janet Currie & Jonathan Gruber, 1997. "The Technology of Birth: Health Insurance, Medical Interventions, and Infant Health," NBER Working Papers 5985, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. David M. Cutler & Ellen Meara, 2000. "The Technology of Birth: Is It Worth It?," NBER Chapters,in: Frontiers in Health Policy Research, Volume 3, pages 33-68 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Mark G. Duggan, 2000. "Hospital Ownership and Public Medical Spending," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1343-1373.
    6. Currie, Janet & Gruber, Jonathan, 1996. "Saving Babies: The Efficacy and Cost of Recent Changes in the Medicaid Eligibility of Pregnant Women," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(6), pages 1263-1296, December.
    7. Cutler David M. & Meara Ellen, 2000. "The Technology of Birth: Is It Worth It?," Forum for Health Economics & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 3(1), pages 1-37, January.
    8. Nicholson, Sean & Song, David, 2001. "The incentive effects of the Medicare indirect medical education policy," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(6), pages 909-933, November.
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